Posted by: atowhee | September 25, 2017


A clear, mild autumn day at 4500 to 5500 feet elevation in the southern Cascades is hard to beat in North America. Here is Carol Mockridge’s photo of the Pileated Woodpecker who drummed, called and checked out the slow-moving groundlings in his territory:pilwood While at Klum Landing on Howard Prairie Lake… before we were swept up in the Gray Jay fantasia…we were standing on the boat ramp, a few Ring-billed Gulls and two immature Double-crested Cormorants were upon the lake’s glare. In the trees we heard the Steller’s taunting and a distant Raven, but it was calm and ordinary…until a large black bird flew straight down from a pine and landed by the lake’s edge. Not a shorebird, not a crow, not a Brewer’s Blackbird, but a lone Lewis’s Woodpecker. It proceeded to drink and then chase prey on the water’s edge.LW IN GLARELW IN GLARE3 Later we found him where he belonged, up a tree:lew-tree
Other images from the day:weme-twoWP INLINEWS IN MUD3Snipe was at HOward Prairie Reservoir, the Audubon’s Warbler one of many at Hyatt Lake.YR AT HLYR AT HL3

Emigrant Creek Rd., Jackson, Oregon, US
Sep 24, 2017 7:10 AM – 7:20 AM. 4 species

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) X
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) X
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) X
Keno Access Road, Jackson, Oregon, US
Sep 24, 2017. 8AM. 14 species

Northern Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium gnoma) 2
Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) 2
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group]) X
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 1
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) 12
Common Raven (Corvus corax) X
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) X
Townsend’s Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) X
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni) 10
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group]) X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) X
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) X
Keno Access Road, Jackson, Oregon, US
Sep 24, 2017 2:20 PM – 2:40 PM. 5 species

Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group]) 1
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) 10
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni) 8
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group]) X
Lily Glen Park, Jackson, Oregon, US
Sep 24, 2017. 3 species

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) X
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group]) X
Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) X ony a few stragglers compared with dozen on Sept. 12
Howard Prairie Lake, Jackson, Oregon, US
Sep 24, 2017 10:20 AM – 11:20 AM
Comments: Most water birds seen at shallow north end of reservoir, walked in from Lily Glen; GGOwl in meadow one miles south of resort entrance road along Hyatt Lake Road.
27 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 50
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) 1
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 50
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) 2
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) 40
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) 1
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) 8
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) 4
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) 30
Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) 1
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) 10
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 4
Great Egret (Ardea alba) 2
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) 2
American Coot (Fulica americana) 50
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) 20
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) 40
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) 1
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) 8
Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata) 3
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) 10
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 15
Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) 1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group]) X
Common Raven (Corvus corax) X
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) X
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 2
Hyatt Reservoir, Jackson, Oregon, US
Sep 24, 2017. 5 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 500
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 5
American Coot (Fulica americana) 300
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group]) 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni) 4
Klum Landing, Jackson, Oregon, US
Sep 24, 2017 1:40 PM – 2:10 PM
Comments: I had never birded here before and there was no eBird designation before this checklist
11 species

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) 2
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 8
Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) 1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group]) 1
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 1
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) 15
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) 20
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 2
Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) X
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni) 20
Howard Prairie Dam Road, Jackson, Oregon, US
Sep 24, 2017. 9 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 6
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 2
Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) 1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group]) 1
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) 2
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) 15
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 2

Posted by: atowhee | September 25, 2017


At Klum Landing and along Keno Access Road we encountered three different groups of feeding Gray Jays yesterday. That is the highest number of this species I’ve ever seen in a single day. I’ve never lived near this bird so I went to Birds of North America online for a little background information. I share it here:
Gray Jay Perisoreus canadensis
It is generally a northerly bird and is not found south of Mt. Lassen or Mendocino on the Pacific Slope. It is generally in cold or high altitude habitat though it can be found at sea level near Eureka, CA. It stores food under bark or lichens using sticky saliva. It lives in habitat where burying caches would fail because of snow depth or hard freezing so items must be cached where they can be retrieved despite snow and cold.
It is widespread in Canada and was once called “Canada Jay” like its Latin binomial suggests. It is also known colloquially as “camp robber” and “whiskey jack.”
As befits a bird surviving in harsh climate the Gray Jay is adaptable and omnivorous. It can wade for food in shallow water. It will take carrion, human food scraps, fruit or anything available. Unlike most songbirds the Gray Jay can carry food in its feet as well as its beak. This foot-carry allows them to carry heavier items. They eat invertebrates, birds and small mammals, berries, loose seeds and even fungus. Mid-summer hoarding and caching in Arctic can produce over 1000 caches of food in a single day. That’s how this species survives a winter most birds must flee. Of course, its big cousin, the raven, also survives Arctic winters without migration.
Yesterday I saw one jay east three slender dark insects in as many seconds. They were not caching anything. Perhaps their food storage is done and this was like a Thanksgiving feast before the cold sets in.
BNA says: “Gray Jays nest during late winter in cold, snowy, and apparently foodless conditions, with eggs incubated at temperatures as low as -30° C. Second broods or replacement nests are not attempted in the seemingly more favorable May-June breeding period used by other boreal passerines.”
Gray Jays are not known to be highly gregarious. Mated pairs are usually together constantly and may be attended by young or a couple of non-mated adults, but not regularly found in flocks. So our experience with flocks of both Steller’s and Gray Jays at Klum Landing must have been due to concentrated food source…likely some insect hatch.

Posted by: atowhee | September 25, 2017


Sept. 24-A Great Gray Dawn—in Pictures

We stopped at a well-known GGO hunting meadow near Howard Prairie Lake. 8AM. We had seen no owl there on our first pass. This time Carol Mockridge spotted the young owl at the far north end of the clearing, hanging from a dead ponderosa branch like a mass of moss. The bird dove to the ground a couple times and moved steadily down the meadow toward us but stayed near the far side, away from the road. The last time he dropped to the ground and vanished in the two-foot tall grass and forbs, I began shooting immediately. The one thing I “know” about cameras—always shoot in bursts. I was taught that by my co-author Peter Thiemann who took nearly all the great photos for our Great Gray Owl book, by shooting the birds with his camera set to burst…you never know what might happen in the next nano-second. So I have the young bird flying back into the forest. Without even moving my camera I then caught the father owl coming in from his previously unseen perch off to our left, flying past and going into the forest near the youngster. Later we heard the father’s deep-throated hoots as he instructed his offspring on how to really hunt a meadow, or …924-ggo1924-ggo2924-ggo3 924-ggo5924-ggo6924-ggo7924-ggo8924-ggo9924-ggo10924-ggo11924-ggo12924-ggo13924-ggo14

Posted by: atowhee | September 23, 2017


Sept. 23, 2017, Ashland, OR
This morning Shannon Rio and I were leading a Klamath Bird Observatory field trip in the Ashland area. We ended up watching a TV show. This show was organic, nutritious, rich and satisfying. It was long-lasting, complex and exciting. It short it matched and then exceeded all the advertising copy you expect when watching TV.
Except…this TV was not that tv, but Turkey Vultures. We began our morning in the 45-degree chill at Emigrant Lake and by 9AM the air was warming and the sun was suppressing the clouds and we looked up to see Turkey Vultures. Not one, not a few, not a couple dozen…but kettle after kettle of south migrating TVs gathering and circling over the southern end of the Rouge Valley.
Here the vultures that migrate in the troughs between the Cascades on the east and Coast Range on the west face their highest hurdle. They must get over the Siskiyou Pass which tops 4000 feet elevation, 2000 feet higher than the upper end of the Rogue Valley. The pass is the highest point on the length of Interstate 5 just as it is the highest point on the inland migration route of these TVs. To most easily surmount the challenge the vultures seek out thermals and sunny days to lift their spirits and their wings. This Saturday in kettle after kettle the vultures would circle (mostly clockwise) and rise with each circuit. When they got high enough they would peel off from the whirl and coast straight south or southeast to a point where they would join another, higher elevation kettle. Some of these kettles swirled over the Emigrant Lake itself. Eventually all these birds got high enough to challenge the pass itself and thus coast southward into California and their ultimate goal of getting at least to the Sacramento Valley where carcasses don’t freeze on a winter’s night.
Here are some far better TV images from the camera of George Peterson who’s a real photographer, out of my point-and-shoot league.turkey Vulture emigrant lake (2 of 1)turkey Vulture emigrant lake (3 of 1)turkey Vulture emigrant lake (4 of 1)turkey Vulture emigrant lake (5 of 1)Turkey vultures emigrant lake (6 of 1)Turkey vultures emigrant lake (7 of 1)Turkey vultures emigrant lake (7 of 1)-2
We now get few natural phenomena where the creatures around us overcome our ability to count or estimate. One woman in our group started out counting the vultures, then counting the kettles and multiplying by seventy. But when each scan of the sky turned up more and more distant kettles even she was overwhelmed. Did we see five hundred, seven hundred, over a thousand? Yes and maybe to all those questions.
We no longer see elk herds in the hundreds, pronghorn herds of equal size, duck flocks so dense you think you could walk across the lake on their backs,pods of sea lions or fur seals covering offshore rocks. But we do have the Snow Geese who cover Sarcamento Valley refuges beneath drifts of white…and Turkey Vultures that perform gyre after gyre above Ashland before following the warmth to the lower lattitudes. It inevitably happens here in late September just where the Rogue Valley narrows and begins to slope up toward 2500′ elevation in preparation for the climb toward the Siskiyous.
There was a lone Pectoral Sandpiper among the Killdeer at the southwest end of the lake. Violet-green and Barn Swallows numbered in the hundreds. Common Mergansers pursued a school of fish along the lakeshore. They were diving and splashing in the shallows, attracting heron and egret alike. In the weeds growing in the dried lakebed of the half empty reservoir we found a flock of American Pipits, busily chasing down food. A Peregrine found a high perch, better to study the small fock of Green-winged Teal feeding in the muck. Acorn Woodpeckers, Western Bluebirds, Oak Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatches, House Wren–all doing what they are wont to do.API2AW UPP HIKD RUNZLesser Goldfinch, a beauty ammidst beauty.LEGO HIPSOsprey.OSPPeregrine.PG STAREZOne siskin???pisi on wirreWB IN ROSE
Later at Ashland Pond we found Yellow and Orange-crowned Warblers, waxwings and a Pied-billed Grebe family along with a skittish Green Heron who was camera-shy.
Some other fine images from George, including his shot of Pectoral and Killdeer: kildeer pectoral emigrant lake (1 of 1)peregrine falcon emigrant lake (1 of 1)Peregrine action!!!peregrine falcon emigrant lake (2 of 1)Blue bird emigrant lake (1 of 1)

To keep track of thing birdy in the Rogue Valley try the local Audubon website which has an updated feed of all sightings reported to the local birding listserve. That news feed is at the bottom of the front page, click here.
I wish all the local Audubon societies would get modernized and have their websites offer a similar service.

Springsteen is 68 years old today. Happy birthday, Bruce!

Posted by: atowhee | September 22, 2017


U went from McMinnville to Ashland today. Not much happening at Ankeny NWR. THe little marsh near the Coburg I-5 exit turned up a Green Heron kid who just stared at me. Five species of shorebird at Emigrant Lake south of Ashland.grn hrnSemipalm.
Ploverr at Emigrant Lake, huddled down in footprints. Snowy Plovers do the same thing.SEMIP1SEMIP2Western and Least Sandpipers:SHRBIRDS2Tern diving. Do they try to grab the fish with their feet, not the beak? I need to check this out.lTERN HITSTERN HITS2TERN RISESTERN RISES2TERN RISES3
American Goldfinch enjoying large thistle crop at Coburg.AMGOBald Eagle watching ducks at Emigrant Lake:BIG BIRDCommon Mergansers loafing at Emigrant, Mallards dabble in foreground.COME GRP
Emigrant Lake, Jackson, Oregon, US
Sep 22, 2017 4:10 PM – 5:20 PM. 21 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 70
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 5
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) 14 males and females together
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 1
Great Egret (Ardea alba) 1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) 1 adult
Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) 4
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) 10
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) 14
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) 8
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) 2
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 1
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) 1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) 2
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 3
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) X
Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus) 2
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) X
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) 3
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) X

Posted by: atowhee | September 21, 2017


I got to spend much of last Saturday on a field trip led by Duncan Evered, co-director of the Malheur Field Station. Few people alive know as much about the natural history of that basin over the past twenty years. Here are a few visual highlights:four speciesOur first stop was at the waterhole Duncan maintains in front of his home: quail, thrasher, WC Sparrow, Yellow-rumps.wcs-awcs-bwcs-yrwwcs-yrw2
NEXT STOP: THE NARROWS There is only a slowly drying shallow lake left at The Narrows. It is miles now from the main bodies of water in either Harney Lake or Malheur Lake.
gy-shldrYellowlegs and ibis cruised the water’s edge. Not a Glossy Ibis but an Ibis with gloss:ibis dipibis glossOne of two young night-herons along The Narrows:n-h kidSavannah Sparrow cleaning up after a preenJuvie White-crowned Sparrow.w-c kid
PRINCETON HAS RAPTORSThere were newly mown fields, perhaps offering chopped rodent for lunch…certainly the predators were plentiful.
bdgr-prn2In one small area we counted eleven Ferruginous Hawks, including one very dark morph.fer-pivotferrudarkferrudark2ferruppA nearby Golden Eagle:geg-soarEn route to Princeton we passed this “road dog.”roadogroadog2 The coyote is still shot by many locals in Harney County. The same folks who constantly battle the ground squirrels to preserve their pasture profits and alfalfa income.
We ended our day at the Malheur Headquarters campus. Hermit Thrush, Townsend’s Solitaire, Orange-crowned and Yellow Warblers, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Caspian Tern. Duncan explained that many migrants linger briefly at the HQ because the pickings are slim, the plants mostly exotics, the brush largely cleared out. Many of the rare vagrants likely come there to die, with no chance of replenishing their lost body weight so they migrate to a more suitable habitat.
Then we saw a kingfisher. Duncan explained that kingfisher and Osprey are uncommon in the north end of the basin because there is little clear water which they need to fish. The very next day I saw an Osprey over the Blitzen River at Page Springs…where the river has just left Steens Mountain and still runs crystal clear. After twenty miles of paralleling Central Patrol Road and draining hay fields the Blitzen has turned muddy and turgid.gho-leaveskf-hq2We had missed the Great Horned Owl until it hooted at us, Duncan turned back ansd this largest leaf-bird of the day.

Posted by: atowhee | September 21, 2017


Fall has descended. One more summer past but not one easily forgotten…with its heat and forest fires and smoke and hurricanes in the far-off Neo-Confederacy where they still fight over Confederate flags.
Here the tree dandruff descends with the season: dawn redwood needles and twigs, hydrangea flower clusters dried and weightless, deciduous leaves. Our tomatoes are losing leaf green but clinging stubbornly to tomatoes that remain green. The parsley bush has ambitions to be a lilac and its sprigs have now gone to seed. The clematis insists on some fall blooms, one at a time with sky blue to remind what the heavens look like outside of fire and smoke times. Hay has been cut and baled: fescue, orchard grass, clover. The hops crops were cut weeks ago so more beer is a-brewing. The Bushtit gang came by today to remind me to replenish the suet as the nights get colder, the days briefer. We still have some bright sunny color, the American Goldfinch crowd which will dissipate and vanish as will the Barn Swallows still speeding overhead.
Our rainy season seems to have begun and driven down the fires and driven out much of the smoke. My eyes and lungs are thankful.

Posted by: atowhee | September 20, 2017


Some photos from the Summer Lake area by Shannon Rio and Kirk Gooding:FullSizeRenderAbove: cranes and tractor. Below: Killdeer portrait.FullSizeRender (4)FullSizeRender (1)FullSizeRender
Snipe:FullSizeRender (3)Coyote frightens shorebirds.FullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRender (1)pronghorn
FullSizeRender (1)heron, egret, admiring wigeonsFullSizeRender (2)Trumpeter Swans, America’s heaviest flying bird:FullSizeRender (3)FullSizeRender (5)
Great Horned one…FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRender (3)FullSizeRender (4)FullSizeRender (6)FullSizeRender (7)

Posted by: atowhee | September 19, 2017


“My mind darts back to May of 1969 at Cabin Lake, Oregon, where I first met the smallest of them [thrashers] all, the sage thrasher. I still see him in his undulating song flight, his songs stitching sage to heaven as he dipped into the sagebrush and out again, over and over, circling around his territory and singing all the while… 32 years later, on June 12, 2001…I stand in the sage in Sierra Valley in east-central California, minding my own business and that of the Brewer’s sparrows when he swoops into the sage next to me and then out again…constantly singing. Constantly, as in never ceasing, it seems…What I hear is hard to believe. He is in clear view, perched in the dead twigs atop the sage…it is his bill opening and closing as from that sage pour the sounds of nighthawks and meadowlarks and sora rails and California quail and house finches and barn swallows and gulls and snippets of songs that remind me of so many other species.” –THE SINGING LIFE OF BIRDS by Donald Kroodsma.

There is surely no finer songster in the Oregon steppe than the Sage Thrasher. Kroodsma estimated one male thrasher has hundreds of songs. The male may have even more than the 2000 attributed to his eastern cousin, the Brown Thrasher. Only a couple times did we hear these birds sing, but they were hard to avoid. In spring the song flows over the steppe from many adjacent territories. From territorial pairs during breeding season the Sage Thrashers morph into gregarious gangs in fall. Nothing like a little water to bring folks birds converg1st converg2
We know that there is no more SONG songbird than the thrashers of North America.
Their cousins include Mockingbirds and Catbirds. There are no members of their family (mimidae) in the Old World where listeners must make do with Song Thrush and Nightingale.
One commong sound at Malheur, not to be confused with song or music…the calling of the hungry young Forster’s Tern. “Fish, mom, fish…”TERN SCREAMYoung birds abounding, here young coot:xcoot yngyb-ro1Young male Red-winged Blackbird.YMRWB
I think of these as “Duncan’s quail” as they gather round his water hole at the Malheur Field Station:d-qwalD-QwAL2d-wwSo which masked predator is more piratical? Waxwing or shrike? On behavior points I judge the shrike to be the true pirate of the plains.PIRATERed-tail using kiosk for its highest purpose, a higher perch…rh kioskSavannah Sparrow:S-SPThis guy raced across tyhe gravel road in front of my car so I took his picture. Better stay clear of that shrike, little lizard…
lzrd-aRabbitbrush hosts a nectar orgy…RB-BF

Posted by: atowhee | September 19, 2017


Among the many pleasures of birding eastern Oregon is the near certainty of multiple Golden Eagle encounters. Here is one immature bird flying over the sagebrush near Crane (the village, not the bird).ge flyge fly1ge fly2ge fly3

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